A Small Town Transforms, Grows—and Endures. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Canterbury, New Hampshire, was an agricultural town with a declining population, grouped in farm-based neighborhoods with one-room schools, poor roads, and different religious affiliations, including a Shaker village. Unaffected as yet by the automobile and the telephone, residents tended to live and work within a small distance of their homes.
The devastating effects of a great fire in the town center during World War II signaled a change in the town’s identity that took hold over the second half of the century. A rise in population blended with an agricultural past to create a new identity as a residential community wishing to retain and preserve its rural quality.
Through the decades, Canterbury retained a distinct sense of self, embodied in a can-do spirit that continues to bring residents together around projects and traditions big and small. This twentieth-century history is an example of that self, involving community fundraising and the time and talents of more than two hundred people.